The digits of science

Statistics as scientific tool

Do you want to take a bet? Let’s leave it on an invitation to read your usual newspaper. We are sure you will find graphs, tables, percentages, some histogram and perhaps allusions to means, modal values, medians or percentiles. It does not seem fair to bet on their appearance since it is quite common to find this repertoire in them either partially or in full. The statement is as well valid for any other kind of media.

«Statistics» are part of our daily lives. These «statistics» are what specialists call descriptive statistics to differentiate it from Statistics, with capital S, of which the former would be just the tip of the iceberg. Statistics is the main focus of this monograph. «Statistics has a powerful and far-reaching effect on everyone», was the claim of the International Year of Statistics, 2013.

The following pages will verify how true this statement is. You will find a sample of the assistance Statistics provides to other research fields (medicine, particle physics …). Although assistance may not be the right word to the extent that it involves unidirectionality. Symbiosis would be a better choice. You will also find the little story of a great formula, the Bayes formula, which has resulted in a new way to approach Statistics. The following pages will also address the new buzzword: massive or big data.

Statistics has evolved thanks to the answers demanded from it and the tools provided by other sciences. An interview with Professor Alan Gelfand illustrates this point. The design of approximate methods to address problems whose exact theoretical solution was unapproachable was made possible thanks to the evolution of personal computers. The MCMC method that Professor Gelfand developed next to A. Smith confirms it.

If this leaves you wanting more, enter World of Statistics (WoS, and you may quench your thirst.

© Mètode 2014 - 83. Online only. The Digits of Science - Autumn 2014
Professor at the Department of Statistics and Operational Research of the University of Valencia (Spain).
Full Professor of Statistics and Operational Research. University of Valencia (Spain).